Eight police officers were attempting to make an arrest in Basildon, Essex, following a high-speed chase in the area when they were attacked by an unruly crowd. The crowd doused the officers in petrol and in a video of the incident, onlookers can be heard jeering at the officers and shouting things like “light them up” and “who’s got the matches?
The incident took place in May 2019, but the video was not shown to the public until the episode of the BBC’s Critical Incident aired last year.
Police were working at a nearby event when they heard reports of someone recklessly driving a motorbike. When they persued the person on the motorbike he fled, which started an eight-mile high-speed chase. There was even a helicopter chasing after the motorbike, which attracted a lot of attention.
The officers stopped the rider at an estate but when they attempted to arrest him a crowd of up to 30 people surrounded the officers and became hostile with them. One woman reportedly threatened to beat police with a hammer that she was wielding. Things escalated when 28-year-old Justin Jackson threw the fuel at them. Onlookers threatened to set the police ablaze, but luckily nobody struck a match. However, two officers had to be taken to hospital after swallowing petrol.
PC Andrew Bird, one of the officers on the scene, said that he had never experienced anything like this. At first, Bird said that he feared one of the attackers was carrying acid in the watering can as he was running towards them.
“It was as I was trying to control this gentleman who had run out of the middle of nowhere that this other chap has appeared with a watering can. I could smell petrol, so I sort of fumbled around to get my baton out, but once I’ve got it I’ve put it behind my head and just struck him in line with my training,” Bird said.
Bird said that he was on the bottom of the pile and other officers were struggling to help him. The officers had to be careful not to use their tasers, because the slightest spark could have sent them all bursting into flames.
After the attack was called in, ninety officers then rushed to the scene to help their colleagues.
Jackson was arrested and sentenced to three years and nine months in prison, and a 17-year-old from Basildon was also arrested and disqualified from driving for a year and fined. It is not clear what connection the driver of the motorbike had with the crowd at the estate, or why the onlookers were immediately so aggressive with the police on the scene.
The shocking footage was released days after 54-year-old Sgt. Matt Ratana was shot and killed while attempting to detain a suspect at the Croydon Custody Centre in south London. A 23-year-old man was reportedly detained at the scene, but police have released few other details about the suspect. The Metropolitan Police Service has launched a homicide investigation into the case.